Light technologies are changing not only the way we live, but also how well we live. In recent research, light technologies including holograms, digital camera technology, spectroscopy and optical fiber is being used in new ways in neurology, cancer diagnostics and treatment and more.
Changing neuronal activity with holography
UC Berkeley neuroscientists are working on projecting holograms into the brain to activate or suppress dozens of neurons at once. Neurons are activated by holographic laser light projects via a microscope through a window into the brain.
The holographic brain modulator can activate up to 50 neurons at once in a 3D chunk of brain containing several thousand neurons and repeat that at up to 300 times a second with different sets of 50 neurons. This has potential for neural prostheses, as it would provide a method of “talking to the brain”. Read more about this work in Editing Brain Activity with Holography.
Light serves dual-purpose in cancer diagnosis and treatment
At Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina (US), researchers have developed a fluorescing nanoparticle that can find tumors, activate them by light, and destroy the cancer cells by heat.
The fluorescing nanoparticles serve a dual purpose—they can fluoresce and then can generate heat when stimulated with near-infrared light. This could be a research breakthrough because it’s now possible to identify, locate and treat small tumors before they metastasize. Read more about this work in Fluorescing Nanoparticle Locates, Treats Small Breast Cancer Tumors
Light technique measures blood flow in the brain
iDWS is a new way of measuring blood flow deep in the brain, developed at the University of California, Davis. The technique is based on conventional digital camera technology—interferometric diffusing wave spectroscopy—or iDWS. The researchers had observed that when laser light scatters from moving red blood cells in tissues, it creates a speckle pattern that fluctuates, depending on the rate of blood flow
They can measure tissue blood flow by measuring the fluctuations, but it’s a challenge in deep organs like the rain. Their technique boosts the weak light field, multiplies it by a strong reference light field that produces fluctuations that can be measured by a CMOS sensor. Compared to photon counting methods, iDWS is less expensive and more scalable, and it uses a sensor technology driven by mobile phones, cameras or other consumer-level devices. Read more in Spectroscopy Technique Measures Blood Flow in the Brain
More precise biopsies with miniature spectrometers
By integrating an optical fiber in a biopsy needle, cancerous and non-cancerous tissue can be illuminated and differentiated. The European project inSPECT developed a tool that can collect backscattered light and send it to a spectrometer. Different concentrations, collected by a second optical fiber, give real-time feedback to the physician during the medical procedure.
The researchers have developed to classes of spectrometer systems as well as anew class of broadband light source based on solid-state laser excitation of luminescent materials. The result is that physicians will be able to perform more precise and instant diagnoses with these spectrometers that can be developed in high volume at low cost. Read more in Real-Time Tissue Diagnostics with Miniature Photonics Spectrometers.
Written by Anne Fischer, Managing Editor, Novus Light Technologies Today